Tulum-Inspired Recipes Perfect for Summer Entertaining

Chef Camille Becerra creates fresh, colorful dishes at Casa Pueblo Tulum.

White Exterior
Photography by Camille Becerra

As visiting chef at the newly opened Casa Pueblo Tulum, a hacienda-style hotel in Mexico, New York–based chef and Domino contributor Camille Becerra shares her impressions of the coastal Mayan region—and the recipes inspired by her extended stay. 

Almost anywhere you travel there are ancient foods—grains, spices, citrus, seeds, herbs. Learning about regional produce in the markets and what varies from place to place adds a flourish to the dishes you create.

I’m reimagining my recipes here with local ingredients rather than making Mexican food specifically—like using amazing rice, yucca, and oatmeal flours to develop a new version of my gluten-free banana bread. I also discovered the chocolaty indigenous ramón flour that is becoming popular as a superfood. As a chef you want to adapt your cuisine to what’s available and bring back your favorite finds.

Green and White and Yellow Portrait
Green and Pink Food

Going to the market is such an educational process—it’s my first stop when traveling and where I do my research to understand what people eat and how they cook. Seeing all the beautiful produce and working with those elements to bring in new flavors and colors is inspiring—even the way fruit is displayed in diagonal slices or stacked up like little totems.

My favorite market in the area is run by a Mayan couple who grow all their own organic produce—like beautiful heritage tomatoes and arugula that’s wild tasting, spicy, and delicious.

Orange and White Food
Blue and Gray and Orange Dining room

In New York, I dress in navy and black, but here I’m wearing floral prints. I’m completely drawn to Tulum’s minimal architecture and vibrant buildings—the distinctive azul añil blue is a traditional color of the region. Your environment affects your food, too.

Being surrounded by tropical produce gives me more of a palette to work with, like the purply red sauce for my coconut fish (a mix of roasted beet and tomato). At Casa Pueblo, we keep the dishware neutral and earthy to allow the food to really pop. All the ceramics are made locally, and one studio, Taller Escarabajo, uses clay from the area.


Blue Outdoor
Photography by Camille Becerra
Blue and Green and Orange Food
Plate by Escarabajo Ceramica Photography by Camille Becerra

RECIPES

Ceviche With Papaya & Red Onion


I love how the sweetness of the ripe papaya balances the smokiness of the mezcal. The pepitas add crunch and a hit of spice.  

Serves 2

Toasted Pumpkin Seeds 

  • ½ cup pumpkin seeds
  • 2 tbsp neutral oil
  • 1 (3-finger) pinch salt
  • 1 (2-finger) pinch chili powder
Toss pumpkin seeds in a sauté pan with oil, salt, and, chili powder.  Keep tossing until all are golden brown. Transfer to a plate and let cool.

Ceviche 
  • ½ cup lime juice  
  • 2 tbsp smoky mezcal
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 5 oz local white fish, sliced thin
  • 1 fresh chili de arbol, sliced thin
  • ¼ red onion, cut thin on mandoline
  • 1 cup papaya, peeled and cut into bite-size pieces 
  • 2 sprigs cilantro or 4 Thai basil leaves
Combine juice, mezcal, and salt in a bowl. Add fish, chili de arbol, and onion to the mezcal dressing. Let everything marinate for 3 minutes. Arrange fish on a plate, top with papaya, and drizzle with the remaining onion, chili, and mezcal marinade. Garnish with additional pumpkin seeds and cilantro or Thai basil.

Red and White Food
Photography by Camille Becerra

Fish Poached in Coconut Milk With Roasted Beet and Tomato Sauce

My current favorite way of cooking fish that requires a gentle process—like red snapper or striped bass—is by poaching it in fresh coconut milk. It comes out really succulent, and the toasted seeds add some nice texture.

Roasted Beet and Tomato Sauce (make ahead)

  • 1 pound medium beets, peeled
  • 2 pounds plum tomatoes
  • ½ red onion
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 2 tsp salt1 tbsp paprika
  • ½ tsp cumin powder
Preheat oven to 275 degrees Fahrenheit. Place all ingredients in a large mixing bowl and toss, ensuring the vegetables are well coated with oil and spices. Transfer to a parchment-lined sheet pan (it’s okay if the pan is a bit crowded). Roast for 1 hour. If your oven has a pilot light, turn the oven off and keep the pan in the oven overnight. If your oven doesn’t have that feature, roast at 275 degrees for 4 hours. Place all ingredients in a blender and puree in batches. Season to taste with salt.

Poached Fish
  • 1 mature coconut or 4 cups store-bought unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 onion, peeled and cut in quarters
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2 tsp sesame salt
  • 20-oz piece of local white fish, cut into 4 pieces
Crack the coconut, drain water, and remove meat from shell. Combine the coconut meat and 4 cups water in a blender. Blend on high speed for 3 minutes. Strain into a shallow pan (coconut pulp can be reserved and used for baking or as a topping for dishes). Add onion, garlic, and salt to the coconut milk and simmer for 5 minutes. Add fish, simmer for 4 minutes. Turn off heat and let rest for 1 minute. Remove fish from broth (remaining coconut broth can be saved and frozen for use as a base in steamed mussels, soup, or curries). Serve fish with the roasted beet and tomato sauce. Garnish with shredded coconut and sesame salt.

Black and Taupe and Yellow Food
Photography by Camille Becerra

Jicama & Green Mango Salad With Candied Peanuts
Crunchy jicama and starchy green mango both have flavor profiles that lend really well to salads.   

Serves 1 to 2

Candied Peanuts

  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • ½ cup unroasted peanuts
  • 1 (2-finger) pinch salt
  • 1 (2-finger) pinch chili powder
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In a small ovenproof sauté pan, melt sugar and water. Once bubbling, add the peanuts, salt, and chili, and stir until the water is dissolved and peanuts are fully coated. Transfer pan to the oven (you can also transfer peanuts to parchment-lined paper), and roast for approximately 15 minutes.

Salad
  • 1 to 2 green mangoes
  • ¼ pound jicama, approximately
  • ½ cup sliced4 sprigs cilantro
  • 4 sprigs mint8 arugula leaves
  • 2 tbsp sprouts, optional (any type will do)
Dressing
  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • ¾ cup neutral oil
  • ½ tsp agave
  • 1 (2-finger) pinch salt
  • 1 (2-finger) pinch chili powder
Peel the mango, cut along the pit, and thinly slice pieces. Peel the jicama and use a mandoline to cut thin slices, then cut into rectangular bite-size pieces. To assemble, lay all the vegetables on a plate, drizzle liberally with dressing, and finish with herbs and peanuts (you’ll have extra for snacking).  

Green and Red and Taupe and Yellow Food
Photography by Camille Becerra

AGUAS
Hydrating fresh waters are very common in Mexico and now popular in the States. For extra nutritional pep, add a teaspoon or two of chia to your drink after the straining process.

Each yields roughly 6 cups. 

Pineapple-Spinach-Ginger Agua

  • 1/2 whole pineapple, peeled
  • 3 cups packed spinach, leaves and stems
  • 2-inch piece peeled ginger1 tbsp sugar
Rough cut pineapple, spinach, and ginger. Add all to blender with 4 cups water and blend in batches. Strain, and serve over ice.

Guava-Lime-Vanilla Agua
  • 8 guavas
  • 2 limes
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 vanilla bean pod, scraped, reserve paste
Roughly cut guavas and limes (skin, pith, and pulp) into medium pieces, and combine in blender with 4 cups water. Blend for at least 1 minute and strain.

Add 4 more cups water over the remaining pulp in strainer and strain again. Discard pulp. Combine sugar and vanilla paste, and stir so the vanilla is well combined throughout the sugar and until sugar is melted. Add 4 cups water, and serve over ice.

Hibiscus-Watermelon-Rosemary Agua
  • 1/2 cup hibiscus flowers
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 4 cups watermelon, cut in 2-inch pieces
  • 2 sprigs rosemary, stripped, reserve leaves
Bring 2 cups water to a boil in a medium pot, then add the hibiscus flowers. Let steep at room temperature for 30 minutes. Strain into a large pitcher, discarding solids. Add sugar, stirring occasionally, until dissolved.

Combine the watermelon (seeds are okay) and rosemary leaves with 2 cups water in a blender and buzz for about 15 seconds. Strain and stir to combine with hibiscus water. Serve over ice.

Green Grape-Cilantro Agua
  • 4 cups grapes
  • 5 sprigs cilantro
Remove grapes from stems (don’t worry if they are seeded). Rough chop the cilantro (leaves and stems). Combine in a blender with 3 cups water. Blend in batches if needed. Serve over ice.

Blue and Green Exterior
Green and Red Vignette
White Exterior
Blue Outdoor
Colorful parasols snapped by chef Camille Becerra at a sidealk cafe in Tulum, Mexico, create a postcard-worthy moment.

This story originally appeared in the summer 2018 issue with the headline "Taste of Tulum."

Get more summer recipes:
Up Your Summer Drink Game With These 5 Icy Ideas
Easy Summer Appetizers Fit for a Crowd
40 Fun Summer Cocktails You Have to Try

Published on July 06, 2018 - 5:05am EDT

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